Introducing the President
(Parody of Lee Bollinger's shockingly rude introduction of The President of Iran at Colombia University, 9/24/07)
Suggested Introduction To the Honorable President Bush
At the United Nations Today:
Before introducing the President of the United States, I have a few critically important points to emphasize.
First, I want to emphasize the UN’s standing tradition of serving as a major forum for robust debate, especially on global issues. It should never be thought that merely to listen to ideas we deplore in any way implies our endorsement of those ideas or our weakness of our resolve to resist those ideas or our naivety about the very real dangers inherent in such ideas. It is a critical premise of civilized dialogue that we do not honor the dishonorable when we open our public forum to their voices; to hold otherwise would make vigorous debate impossible.
Second, to those who believe that President Bush should not be allowed to speak, I want to say that I understand your perspective and respect it as reasonable. The scope of free speech in geopolitics should itself always be open to further debate. As one of the more famous quotations about free speech goes, it is an experiment as all life is an experiment. I want to say, however, as forcefully as I can that this is the right thing to do, and indeed it is required by the existing norms of free speech in the world forum of the United Nations.
Third, to those among us who experience hurt and pain as a result of this President’s military and economic annihilation of your country, I say on behalf of all of us that we are sorry and wish to do what we can to alleviate it.
Fourth, to be clear on another matter, this event has nothing whatsoever to do with any rights of the speaker, but only with our rights to listen and speak. We do it for ourselves. We do it in the great tradition of openness that has defined this nation for many decades now. We need to understand the world we live in, neither neglecting its glories nor shrinking from its threats and dangers. It is inconsistent with the idea that one should know thine enemies, to have the intellectual and emotional courage to confront the mind of evil, and to prepare ourselves to act with the right temperament. In the moment, the arguments for free speech will never seem to match the power of the arguments against, but what we must remember is that this is precisely because free speech asks us to exercise extraordinary self-restraint against the very natural but often counterproductive impulses that lead us to retreat from engagement with ideas we dislike and fear. In this lies the genius of the idea of a world forum.
Lastly, this international body has a deep and almost single-minded commitment to pursue the truth. We do not have access to the levers of power, we cannot make war or peace, we can only make minds, and to do this, we must have the most fulsome freedom of inquiry.
Let me now turn to Mr. Bush.
First, on the brutal crackdown on scholars, journalists and human rights advocates. Tariq Ramadan, for instance, who is regarded as a leading moderate Muslim intellectuals, has had his visa revoked to teach at the University of Notre Dame under Section 411 of the Patriot Act, which permits the government to exclude non-citizens from the country if in the government’s view they have “used [their] position of prominence to endorse or espouse terrorist activity or to persuade others to support terrorist activity.
Let me say this for the record, I call on the president today to ensure that Tariq will be free to return to to his teaching position at Notre Dame. Let me also report today that 30 world universities have extended him a teaching position should his reinstatement be continually denied.
The arrest and imprisonment of these Islamic Americans for no good reason, the denial of habeas corpus, is not only unjustified, it runs completely counter to the very values that allow today's speaker to even appear at this forum.
According to Amnesty International, 41 people have been executed in the United States so far this year. Your criminal justice system affords different standards to whites and to people color. Just this week thousands of demonstrators gathered in Jena, Louisiana to protest against imprisonment of black children. The United States is one only six countries in the world that continues the barbaric practice of capital punishment.
More than 500 Iraqis a day since the US illegially invaded Iraq have been killed by the war mongering policies of this man.
There is more. The world witnessed the horror abu ghraib prison – bestiality, torture, sexual assault – where Iraqi citizens were locked up without any recourse to legal representation.
This has been done in the name of freedom — which is an insult to the intelligence to all the world’s peoples and to all the national leaders gathered here.
In this very room, we have seen Mr. Bush bring false evidence to justify war against Iraq, and today he is trying to do the same thing against Iran.
Let us then clear at the beginning. Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator. And so I ask you -- (applause) -- and so I ask you, why have people of color become targets of persecution in your country.
Why, has your government declared war on Science. Repeated Nobel Laureate protests and letters have decried your intolerance of any information you don’t yourself manifacture. Why are you so afraid of the citizens of the world, of facts?
I propose further that Mr. Bush let me lead a delegation of students and faculty from world universities to address your universities about free speech with the same freedom we afford you today.
Secondly, the denial of US backed proxy wars all over the globe – why do you deny your country’s complicity in the millions of deaths of indigenous peoples all over the world – the Iraq invasion of Iran which resulted in the deaths of more than 600,000 people is just one example.
And so I ask you --
Why did your country give Sadaam Hussein chemical weapons to use against Iran? Why do you deny this? Why did you support the Israeli invasion of Lebanon? Why does the US daily drop bombs on other people’s homes, countries? Why is it ok for the United States to be on it’s fifth generation of nuclear weapons, to refuse to abide by the nuclear arms treaty — but it is not acceptable for other countries to develop peaceful uses of atomic energy?
We challenge your nuclear arms race with whom? With yourself. You are the biggest rogue nation in history.
When you have come to a place like this, this makes you, quite simply, ridiculous. You are either brazenly provocative or astonishingly uneducated. You should know -- (applause) -- please -- you should know that the United Nations is the world center of humanitarian relief – civil debate – negotiation. Why have you refused to speak to world leaders you don’t agree with, world leaders of countries whose natural resources you want to steal?
Why have you armed Israel? Why do you refuse to grant Palestinians the right to sleep in their homes without being bombed? Why do you insist that these people who had nothing to do with WWII and the holocaust pay the price of sins committed elsewhere, by other people. Why do you support the apartheid occupation of the Palestinian people?
Why do you fund terrorist invasions all around the world? According to reports of the Council on Foreign Relations, it's well-documented the United States and the Bush Administration is the largest state sponsor of terror on the planet.
Why do you deny your own gay and lesbian couples the right to marry? Why do you ban openly gay or lesbian people from the military? Why do women earn 30% less in your country than men for the same work? Why do your corporations exploit workers around the world?
My question is this: Why do you support well-documented terrorist organizations that continue to strike at peace and democracy in the Middle East, destroying lives and the civil society of the region?
Why has the United States consistently armed all sides of the sectarian conflict in Iraq? Why has it installed a corporate army in Iraq (Blackwater) which threatens the very sovereignty of the government Mr. Bush pretends to support?
Can you tell us why the United States is arming a proxy internal wars in Iraq which result in countless deaths every day of innocent civilians.
You continue to defy this world body by claiming a right to develop a nuclear weapons of mass destruction, which you are the only country on earth to have used. You continue to issue military threats to neighbors, instead of negotiation to solve international issues and conflicts.
Why does your country continue to refuse to adhere to international standards for nuclear weapons non-proliferation, in defiance of treaties? And why have you chosen to make the people of your country vulnerable to the effects of international economic disasters that threaten to engulf the world in nuclear annihilation?
Let me close with a comment. Frankly -- I close with this comment frankly and in all candor, Mr. President. I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do. Fortunately I am told by experts on your country that this only further undermines your position in your own country, with all the many good-hearted, intelligent citizens there.
A year ago, I am reliably told, your preposterous and belligerent statements in this country, as at one of the meetings at the Council on Foreign Relations, so embarrassed sensible citizens of the world that this led to your party's defeat in the upcoming elections. May this do that and more.
I am only one person.
And today I feel all the weight of the modern civilized world yearning to express the revulsion at what you stand for. I only wish I could do better.
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